University of Limerick (‘the University’ / UL) is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all students. This protocol explains how student emergency contact details are collected and updated, the circumstances under which the University may access and use a student’s emergency contact details and who is likely to make contact.

This content has been produced to provide clarity for University staff, students and students’ designated emergency contacts on the procedure involved and to ensure that correct action is taken in emergency circumstances and in accordance with relevant data protection regulations.

2.1. To whom does the protocol apply?

This protocol applies to all UL students with respect to nominating an emergency contact on the UL Student Records System.  It also applies to all staff of the University with respect to accessing and using students’ emergency contact information. 

2.2. In what situations does the protocol apply?

This protocol applies in the event that the University needs to make contact with somebody close to a UL student due to an emergency situation, where there is evidence of an urgent risk to the immediate health or safety of the student and where the student is not in a position to provide this information directly themselves. Examples of situations in which this may apply are outlined in 3.1 below.

3.1 Emergency

In the context of this protocol, an emergency is typically something that requires immediate action and intervention often, but not exclusively, from the emergency services. Examples might include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • Student death on or off campus
  • Student expressing suicidal intentions with immediate intent
  • Serious and immediate injury or illness (physical or mental) to a student that requires emergency medical intervention
  • Crisis incident such as a serious accident, fire etc. in which a student is involved
  • Missing person
  • Other extreme circumstances where the University has justifiable concerns with respect to immediate risk to the life, health or wellbeing of the student.

3.2. Emergency Contact

An emergency contact is an individual whom a student nominates to be notified in the event of an emergency situation, such as those defined in 3.1 above.

There are two main instances in which the University may access and use a student’s emergency contact information. 

4.1. Immediate risk to life, health or wellbeing of a student

Primarily, the University may use Emergency Contact details in extreme circumstances where the University has justifiable concerns with respect to immediate risk to the life, health or wellbeing of the student. Examples of circumstances when a decision might possibly be made to get in touch with the emergency contact in these circumstances may include, but are not limited to: 

  • admission to hospital for serious illness or injury, as an emergency or in what may be a life-threatening condition (where the University is aware that a student has been admitted)
  • serious illness (including psychiatric illness) where there is a risk to the life of the student
  • when a student is 'missing', providing that there are no reasons for believing that this would increase the risk to the student.

4.2. Death of a student

In the event of a suspected or confirmed death of a student, it is usually the responsibility of the Gardaí to contact the Next of Kin. In such circumstances, the University will pass the Emergency Contact details, including the relationship of the contact to the student as the contact may not be their Next of Kin, to the Gardaí or other emergency services to assist them in this, but will not make initial contact. This is in adherence with the University’s Student Death Policy.

4.3. Use of Emergency Contact details in other situations of serious concern

The University may also make contact with the nominated emergency contact in other situations where there are serious concerns about the student’s health, safety or wellbeing and where it may be in the student’s best interests to do so. Such circumstances may include:

  • When a student is experiencing serious physical or mental ill-health, or there are concerns about behaviour that might indicate the student is seriously unwell, or there is evidence of significant self-harm or addiction;
  • When the University is aware a student has been admitted to hospital in a serious but non-life-threatening condition; in such circumstances the University may also pass the Emergency Contact details to the emergency services so that they can provide support.
  • Nominating an Emergency Contact
  • Authorising use of a student’s Emergency Contact information
  • Accessing a student’s Emergency Contact information
  • Using a student’s Emergency Contact information

5.1. Nominating an Emergency Contact

5.1.1. All UL students are asked to provide details of an emergency contact when enrolling for their course. Students can nominate anyone they choose to be their emergency contact - it need not necessarily be their legal next of kin. For the majority of students the emergency contact is likely to be a parent or guardian, but could also be a sister, brother, spouse, partner, or another relative, or friend. When a student is considering who they wish to nominate they need to consider how the person that they nominate would be able to provide them support in the event of an emergency. Students should let that person know that they have been nominated as the emergency contact and that they have given the University that person's details. 

By providing this information, the student understands that the University may contact their Emergency Contact in accordance with the provisions of this protocol. 

5.1.2. Emergency Contact information is held on the University’s student records system, in accordance with the Student Data Protection Privacy Notice and relevant Irish data protection legislation, and may be used by the University in extreme circumstances, such as in emergency situations as outlined in section 4 above.

Emergency contact details will only be used very rarely by the University and. will only be accessed by approved UL staff members in accordance with this protocol. See 5.3 below. 

5.1.3. It is essential that Emergency Contact details are kept updated. The University will assume that the information is up to date and may need to use it without being able to check with the student first. Students are required to update these details whenever necessary to record any changes. Students can review and update the details at any time by logging into their student portal. If Emergency Contact details are incorrect or out of date, the default contact information will be the student’s most recent home address and phone number.

5.2. Authorising use of a student’s ‘emergency contact’ information

The University may become aware of emergency situations regarding an individual student through any one of a number of different routes including, but not limited to:

  • One of the University’s student support services (e.g. Counselling, Chaplaincy, Student Health Centre, Student Support Officers etc)
  • A staff member of Campus Life Services, departmental, other staff or UL Security
  • A fellow student or family member
  • A member of UL Student Life
  • The University receiving notification of a student’s involvement in an accident or other incident by the emergency services
  • A work placement employer or overseas partner university
  • Where possible and where time allows, the decision to contact a student’s named Emergency Contact will be made jointly by the Provost & Deputy President or the Associate Vice President of Student Engagement (AVPSE) (or their nominees) and the Director of Student Affairs or the Director of UL Global (or their nominees), together with the person or UL staff member who has raised the issue of concern. This group will consider the details of the circumstances in which the emergency situation has arisen and the accuracy of information provided in order to make a decision with regard to accessing the student’s emergency contact information. In the discussion, agreement will be reached about who is the appropriate person to contact the student’s emergency contact. See 5.4.1 below.
  • Where the need for a student’s Emergency Contact has come directly from one of the formal emergency services, any one of the named individuals below may authorise use of the information where the need is of particular urgency, and afterwards will directly notify the relevant Offices above that the student’s Emergency Contact has been accessed and authorised for use. See 5.4.1 below.

5.3. Accessing a student's 'emergency contact' information

Access to a student’s ‘emergency contact’ information on the Student Records System will be limited to the nominated staff in the following areas:

  • Student Affairs Division
    • Director 
    • Head of Counselling
    • Deputy Head of Counselling
    • Head of Disability Services
    • Student Health Centre Practice Manager
  • UL Global
    • Director
    • Deputy Director
    • Student Support Officer
    • Erasmus, Study Abroad and Full Degree Managers
  • Academic Registry
    • Relevant staff in order to manage and process requests from students and staff

5.4. Using a students 'emergency' contact information

5.4.1 The relevant Director or an individual head of service (e.g. Head/ Deputy Head of Counselling, UL Global Manager etc) will normally make contact with the student’s emergency contact. This will apply except in situations involving the death of a student (see 4.1.1 above) or any other situation which involves the formal emergency services. In these cases it is the relevant emergency service (Gardaí, Ambulance Service, Fire Service, Coast Guard), either in Ireland or abroad, that makes contact with the student’s Emergency Contact.

5.4.2 In situations whereby it is necessary for someone other than the Head/Deputy Head of Counselling to make contact with a student’s Emergency Contact on mental health/suicidal risk grounds, protocols that are in place for crisis situations i.e. Identifying and Responding to Distressed Students must be followed at all times, including out of hours, by all staff. In such instances UL Éist (Counselling Service) must be made aware if this occurs as the student could already be engaged with the service, and as such the relevant counsellor would need to be aware of any risks. The student may also subsequently contact UL Éist for support, and the communication will inform the service’s work and ensure appropriate supports are in place.